The second half of this novella doesn’t quite go in the direction you expect. The build up to the sexual act on their weeding eve has been countered with the back story of how Edward and Florence fell in love.
It is clear that the music loving Florence has found her soul mate in Edward and they plan to live happily ever after if she can just get over her worries and clammed up fears of sex. For Edward, a typical man, he expects to carry out his duty and get some pleasure out of it. He knows that Florence is very slow at coming to anything sexual but expects that as it is their wedding night she will allow him to at least consummate the marriage.
His biggest fear is premature ejaculation and ironically that occurs because Florence boldly touches him setting off a reaction he cannot stop. But that is when things fall apart because she runs from the room after being disgusted at the ejaculation over her body and heads for the beach.
Edward is clearly angry and humiliated at what has happened and after a while puts on his clothes and heads along the beach to find her. With her fears in the open it also liberates her anger and Florence wounds Edward and in a few critical sentences their marriage falls apart and she runs off to go home and he heads back to an empty honeymoon suite. He fails to understand her fears and her wish for patience.
That turn of events might not have been the one you were expecting but then with most of us pre-programmed for a happy ending you read on waiting for the reconciliation. But McEwan has other ideas and with Edward’s life on fast forward he skips through the next forty years leaving you in no doubt that those critical moments on Chesil Beach haunted him for the rest of his life and the love he lost was the most powerful he had ever known.
A review will follow soon…